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A LOOK AT THE END
In our last Chapter, we were involved in a trip in a record breaking heat wave extending over half a month, to the joys and beauties of the ocean. This, our current episode, has much more to say to us, and before we bid it farewell, we shall look with lingering wonder once more at the last Chapters of Micah, and let the oceanscape teach us as we go.
In the meantime, let us look at the inspiring and perspective imparting last chapters of Micah.
Micah 6-7 has all the sparkle that one expects of such a
substance as mica, physically in rock,
and does not lack the same when it is the word of God in the Rock of Christ. It is best first to have read Ch. 1, which is far more general in its coverage of Micah than this last chapter, which specialises specifically in the end chapters, and assumes the knowledge of the former things in its expansion of this phase of the book of the prophet Micah.
THE ENVIRONMENT OF TERMS, MERCY AMIDST MUD PILES
In Micah 6, we move from the astounding revelation of Christ, the Messiah, made in Micah 5:1-3, the text which enabled Herod's consultants to direct the majestic gentlemen from the East, to the birth-place of Christ, of the One whose goings are from everlasting. Here we read of this eternal Being, humbling Himself to come as a babe in the land of things that pass, this present world. But the word of God does not pass. Its passing reference therefore enabled these visitors to find the babe before His time of infancy was past, indeed, around the very time of His birth, though written many generations before.
But in Micah 6, we are as is most natural for an inspired prophet performing
at God’s behest, His pastoral and probing task to His people - confronted
with the evils of
Not the blood of animals, or even of one's children, can atone, unless what uses atonement is itself linked by faith, receiving the ways of God in truth, and knowing "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). To walk humbly with your God, you must know Him, and to know Him, you must have faith, for without faith, you cannot please Him (Genesis 15:6, Hebrews 11:6, Romans -5:1). Multiplicity of offerings, then, is not the story, whether of bulls then or masses now. It is mercy which is the key, and the recognition in heart of justice, which is the way; and this involves the smiting of the Judge of Israel with the rod upon the face, as in Micah 5.
After all, it is GOD who is to be smitten on the face (Micah 5:1,3) with a rod, when He comes as man. The sacrifice, as in Isaiah 52-55, is one which must be divine in substance, received by faith, and realised to be totally efficacious in itself (Isaiah 53:5-10, 55:1-4).
When this is done, then it is with the realisation that it is not the plenitude of religious observances which counts, but the plenary character of remission BY MERCY ONLY (as in TItus 3:3-7). As it is divine, received by faith, then it is effectual, activated by God.
With these divine matters
revealed, and the human rejoinder, both negatively and positively, explored, we
come, as just noted, to this review of the sins of the people of
THE VOICE OF FAITH, THE REFLECTIONS IN THE REMNANT
In Micah 7:7, we hear the voice of faith, as if reflected from the remnant (cf. Isaiah , , Micah 5:3, Isaiah ), whose faith soars over the cliffs of destruction, into the wind of refreshment and revival.
Here we audit
a speaking from the heart, for the nation, declaring that there is to be AN END
to the contempt and the mockery of the nation by those against it and against
its homeland (7:7-10). Bearing the national shame, well enough deserved, though
militantly and remorselessly augmented by men in their carnality, the people
come to a better heritage, a mercy of divine proportions. "When I fall, I
will arise; When I sit in darkness, The LORD will be a light to me" - Micah 7:8. For this
reason, the admonition pounds like surf to the tormentors of
The bearing of sin, meanwhile, is to occur UNTIL a time, just as Jerusalem would be trodden down of the nations UNTIL a time, that when the innings of the nations alien to and other than Israel was finished - Luke 21:24; and this, moreover, is just as blindness has happened in part to Israel UNTIL "the fulness of the Gentiles has come in", Romans 11:25. Interestingly, the UNTIL in Luke 21 is similarly "UNTIL the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled", in total agreement with Romans 11, This is placed in the periodicity, the phasing of Jew first, then Gentile, then back to the Jews congregating into the midst of their own olive tree, into which the Gentiles are by now grafted in, is to be seen.
WHEN this periodicity
reaches the phase of Jewish restoration, there are to be two phases as we have
seen in Ezekiel 36-37 (cf. SMR Appendix A and Ch. 3 above). One is the geographic return of
In Micah we are seeing the international repercussions of the dramatic divine mercy to be shown to the remnant, whose desolatory experience has been that of a sinning nation, breaching the covenant and specifically aligned with castigation for this. We are seeing something of what Paul describes in Romans 11:26ff..
This castigation of
Why is this so ? Why is such a thing to follow ? There is to be an impact. The lordly Gentiles unrestrained in their contempt have had their day. What will become of them ? "Now she will be trampled down, like mud in the streets." This is a shameful looking thing, and it is to be experienced by
Thus the enemies will at last lapse in their lordliness ().
Resulting, and in part
cause, are hordes of
Meanwhile the earlier punishment in Micah's day, still to come, is re-affirmed, providing contrast to the restoration to follow ().
Ancient days are evoked, now, as ultimate blessings are reviewed ().
It will not be a placid
restoration, however, like the ghostly mists of evening, on the quiet sea's
face (). On the contrary, it will, to accomplish such things,
require a very prodigy of divine intervention (7:15), comparable with the
Exodus in magnitude and scope, and the fame and
reverberations for the deliverance of Israel will form, now as then, an historic matrix for the nation.What then must we observe in the Exodus, here mentioned for comparison, making just parallel in the text of Micah ? THIS is the measure of the Lord's action. What did that measure include ? in what sort of dimension is to occur
IN those days of the Exodus, then, there were at least two major elements.
It is in this setting that the word of God sees fit to make the parallel with the Exodus*1. This, as a case, was prime in intervention, prime in power at the physical level, and prime in spiritual portent. It instituted the nation again, as independent from her tormentors, and proceeded with formulations of its entire specificity, in the Mosaic covenant, as a development and specialisation of the Abrahamic, which, as noted in Ch. 4 above , being unconditional, continued unchanged. This Paul notes in Romans 4, with considerable emphasis!
Thus in Micah 7:15 we find that there is to be a divine interposition, intervention, comparable with that of the Exodus, the fame and reverberations of which for the deliverance of israel still form an historic matrix for the nation, often reviewed in the Psalms (as in Psalm 80, 105, 106).
This divine intrusion, or -
since after all, HE made it all, AND made the unconditional covenant with Abraham
(Micah 7:20) - gracious favour, itself is a mercy,
will, like the Exodus, be utterly amazing TO THE ALIEN and HOSTILE NATIONS.
This, here, as before was the case with
The covenant of Abraham
stands, and is to be executed in the very face of nations to be humbled by
divine execution of His own promised keeping power (Micah -17). This is perfectly explicit as
this Chapter ends (Micah -17, 19-20). It is the truth to
JACOB, and the mercy, SWORN to Abraham which is in
view, and as noted in Ch. 4 this included unconditional terrain allocation for
This is an IN, that was an OUT, but in each case the people is reconstituted, the promise is kept, God acts according to promise, and acts for this particular nation, under unique historical review, with parallel from nothing else on earth: ISRAEL.
This being so, the point is taken, the land is taken, the obstruction is removed, the parallel, double in intensity and immensity, with the Exodus for this people occurs, and that in the midst of military language in no way ambiguous, asserting the destruction of opposition, the shame of the attackers, the overthrow of their forces and the restoration of the cities of Israel, that Israel so divinely disciplined for lèse-majesté in the very face of divine blessing, for fickleness in the arena of covenant. Ezekiel 36:23-29, complete with its covenantal sprinking, as noted earlier, captures this roundly!
That God Himself, so maltreated when the people had an opportunity so to deal with their King (Micah 5:1-3), should so act, to "give truth to Jacob and mercy to Abraham" (7:20) is in terms of what He has "sworn to our fathers in days of old". He does not vary, as James points out in .
It is strange but true that some seem to imagine*2 that God ought not to allow this concentration on His divine faithfulness AND mercy. It seems to be felt that the swallowing up of the animal sacrificial system, as predicted in Isaiah 52-53, with 66, should prevent God from doing anything else. It seems to be felt, by some, that the divine faithfulness is NOT a proper topic for display, whereas in fact, if He were NOT faithful to the point that He has no equal, so that BP chemical purity, were it applicable, would be far surpassed, so that in fact, He is the very criterion and centre and source of all faithfulness: then nothing, covenantal or otherwise would be secure.
So far is this from really
being the case, that the faithfulness of God is a repetitive feature in Ezekiel
36-37's treatment of the very same topic, and it is in fact made a composite,
in this, that there is equal and continuing stress on the fact that Israel's
restoration is not only a mercy, a faithfulness, but one which is accomplished
CONTRARY to the merit situation. It is DESPITE DEMERIT that
Thus this Micah 7:15 deliverance, specified for the covenantally sinning people, illustrates one giant fact concerning the very nature of God, as the prophet declares: in mercy, He is prodigious, incomparable, without parallel, as able as willing to show it, knowing well how to blot out iniquities and propitiate anger. In so showing mercy in this way, He will however, not only cast our sins "into the depth of the sea", but actively "subdue our iniquities". This too is monumental in majesty in Micah, as seen in Micah 7:15:
"Who is a God like You,
And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage.
He does not retain His anger forever,
Because He delights in mercy.
He will again have compassion on us,
And will subdue our iniquities.
"You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
You will give truth to Jacob
And mercy to Abraham,
Which You have shown to our fathers
From days of old."
(On 7:18-19, see Sinners Only, for application indeed to all, just as it is - like so much else, occasioned by the deeds to some in its actual utterance as a generic principle.)
So does Micah paint the scene
from the rejected Messiah, in Ch. 5, to the rejected nation in Ch. 6-7, its
programmed and prophetic restoration in Ch. 7, the spiritual incisions to be
made into the heart of its people, and the faithfulness of the only God, whose
mercy likewise is more stark than the light of the stars, dancing in the
blackness of the night. It is He who shines like a brilliant radiance into the
midst of the wall of enmity and contempt, and restores His people by His own
will, to their own place, in His own way, according to His own word, which is
then used as a rocket launcher to assure one, to assure all of the magnificence
of His mercy (Micah 7:19), and the certainty of His specifically declared
faithfulness (Micah 7:20).
THE GHOSTLY BEAUTY
In our own narrative, the
ghostly beauty of softening light in the gentle mist about the coasts bordering
the cliffs, over the ocean, and the township with its pine frontage reminds us
how quickly the heat, the enormous and even record breaking heat can
change. Back in
Then, however, when the Messiah has finished His honour's work for Israel, His restoration of the Jews, His mercy to Abraham and to Jacob, and differentially delivered them from the desolations which He Himself had provided in special derogation of their default against Him in their lives and hearts for so long and in so much; and when He has finished His mercy's harvest as in Zechariah 12, Ezekiel 36-37, Romans 11, Micah 7, then, when the frustrated arrogance against Himself and His rule, His apportionments whether of land, of covenant, of grace, of mercy, of the kingdom, and subdued: then the Lord returns with all His saints (Zechariah 14:5, I Thess. 3:13).
It is then that there will be a glory of inundating depths and illimitable scope (cf. Matthew 13:43, Daniel 7:13-14). "The earth will be filled with knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk ). It is THE EARTH, which first finds this abundance (cf. Revelation 20, Micah 4, Isaiah 2, 65).
The earth, covered like
that! like the waters covering the sea! What a glory it is then! What is it
like ? Expansive without effort, grand without diminution of power or faded praise, multiple, magnificent, indubitable and filled with subtle graces while enormous in dimension, almost as if all thought of dimension must be forgotten. So does the water of the ocean speak, and so does it cover.
There is a dimension of righteousness, as of grace, which, like the highest mountains in the aerial repose, glittering in the sun and shrouded in the mist, has such appetite and aspiration to stir, while reposing in such seeming infinitude of loftiness, that it reminds at once of the glory of the Maker (cf. Psalm 36:6). So will the earth, oceanic in parallel, inescapable like the ocean waters, without omission or default, be covered, be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.
By contrast, the failure of Clintonesque zeal of recent US dealings with Israel and her enemies of the year 2000, inimical to the integrity of the land, indeed the vast aerial supply chain made so munificent from the US in Israel's battles of 1973, the historic arising when all seemed but a mockery of degradation and evil intent in 1948, the Balfour Declaration and its remarkable effects, the aroused viciousness of Iraq's military pugnacity and its overthrow in 1991, the overcoming o British unreliability in 1948, and the Russian reluctance for so long thereafter - one now duly mitigated - for the restoration of the resident Jewry to Israel: all these things are but torches in the predicted night. They are however indicative torches! (cf. II Peter 1:19).
It is a night leading to equally predicted day, a day of multiple drama and spiritual repentance in the land, promised Abraham (Micah 7:19-20, Zechariah 12:10).
Moreover, this element of
the closing days of the Gentiles, attested with sublime simplicity by the
restoration of Israel to its alloted, apportioned
premises (as in Deuteronomy 32, Luke 21:24), is
but part of a divine plan so enormous in scope, majestic in quality (Romasn 11:33, Ephesians 3:3ff.), so multiple in facet, so unitary in core, that Paul exclaims, after his review of Romans 11, in verse 33:
What then ? Paul declares: "For of Him and through Him and to Him
are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen" (Romans ).
THE RENDING TIMBERS OF FRENETIC IMAGINATION
AND THE INDISPENSABLE TRUTH
It is time to reflect on the facts.
Now the galloping events have their day, coming into the final lap (as esp. SMR Ch. 8 shows in some detail, in parallel with other places on this site, such as Answers to Questions 5). They rush, they roar, the clatter of hooves reaching to developments in Israel, Jerusalem, Church and Gentile nations in synchronisation and symmetry of fulfilment, separately and in unison; these predicted events reach to such a height and depth of war, famine, evil, folly, arrogance, cruelty, depravity, and that combination of spiritual sleep, erotic and perverse excitement, delusion and drunkenness of spirit, attested in endless seeming sects (cf. Tender Times for Timely Truths Ch. 8) as in falling denominations of former relative stability, that the warning intense, and to the lost macabre. Yet they may repent.
The warning ? It is like that of the distant, low throated, high peril voice of the reverberating fog horn, alerting ships, when mist threatens safety and rocks yearn amid the threshing foam.
It is well to listen, to heed.
God is at work, the Messiah
has come on time (SMR pp. 886ff.),
and long has been the time for the Gospel to penetrate to all nations, as
Christ specified MUST happen before His return in glory (Matthew 24:14, 30ff.);
great has been the patience of the living God (II Peter 3:9). His love is not
the less because the end of the mutiny is at hand, the Gentile rebellion, with
so much in parallel to that of the Jews, having been given millenia for its every list and wish, deceit and twist.
It is the Lord's own return which will, equally, be on time, though in this instance it is not the date which is accorded us, but the tartan of events (Luke 21:24-28). It is NOT in the midst of glory and plenty that He comes, but to a desolatory pit of sin (as in Zechariah 14, II Thessalonians 2, I Thessalonians 1, Matthew 24). His return is not merely to be attested in its nearness by this pattern of the predicted, but by its being unexpected. It is almost as if a coach told his team,
Look, on Saturday you will make the following errors, and for all that, when you have done it, you will be deaf and blind still, and they will then do this and that, and you, not knowing it all, though I have told you, will fall for it as if made of mutiny and emptied of all vision.
The Lord moreover is very wise and knows just how to expose the enmity; but the time He withholds with intent (Matthew 24:45ff., Acts 1:6ff.).
For many, it will be like
the sudden, all too unheeded, onset of that jar that becomes a crash, a
rending, a sundering, a division of the ship and a sinking among the heedless
waves, as unresponding as the captain of the ship,
the deaf leader, the one who WOULD not heed.
The deliverance is prelude to and dimensionally parallel to the final Exodus, of Gentile and Jew, swept to their deliverance as a people from many nations (I Peter 2:9, I Thessalonians 4), whether newly converted, as in much of Israel, by Romans 11, or of longer Christian standing. It is followed by a rebuke to the whole earth (cf. Isaiah 24), reminiscent of that to Pharaoh, and his presumptuous host (The Other News Appendix II provides the tabulated parallel in this greater scope).
The Christians, from
whatever clime or covenant now reaching the New Covenant (as in Ephesians
2:11ff., Isaiah 65:13-15, 62:1-3), testify to the end, as did Moses to Pharaoh,
but except for such as are to be saved, it will not listen any more than
did Pharaoh. Moved by love, and willing to pay with sacrifice, they love not
their lives to the death as required, overcoming by the blood of the Lamb and
the word of their testimony (cf. Luke , Revelation ). Thus does the love of God drive
them on till the day breaks (Revelation 12:11, 11:7ff. - cf. Acme, Alpha
and Omega: Jesus Christ Ch. 5).
There is a jumble sale of -isms available in the theological supermarkets. There are various contrivances and compilations of error which are to some extent comprehensible, but which lack the simple necessity of following in EVERY INSTANCE what is written. They include what is not provided, or exclude what is.
Thus there are various imaginations.
This puts the millenium in the past. In view, however, of Christ's statement in John 14:30 and Revelation 20:1ff. on the topic of the evil one's binding apart from the world, this is all but incomprehensible, until one begins to consider that same, age-old problem, of ADDING to God's word, from books, from historical circumstances, or whatever; or subtracting (cf. Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:31-32, Proverbs 30:6, and by implication, Matthew 5:17-20, Revelation 22:18-19).
It is APPLIED in history, GAINED from internal definition, for OTHERWISE, quite simply, you are of necessity adding to it. Dictionary meanings are normally able to be taken, though with some care, since the lexicographical task is not least to STUDY ALL the usages in the Bible, or in a given language within it, and to ensure that the cast of meaning reflects this, so that it is scholarship, not eisegesis which applies.
In the case of postmillenialism, on the surface the most devastating decline from simple scriptural statement to the exact contrary, one can at last see this: that IF one thought of some period of expansion of the church, apostolic presence, miraculous power and so forth, and felt that this had ceased, then one might wonder, if not bound adequately to the word of God, whether perhaps THIS was the millenium. NOW then it would be past! If one had an amillenial bent, not wanting a millenium despite Revelation 20 dictum to the contrary, and the advices of Isaiah 2, Micah 4, Isaiah 65 and so on, then the demission of that period might be attractive.
The main trouble is that the Bible specifies NO SUCH period before the return of Christ, since the Prince of this world is coming, who statedly has no PART IN CHRIST. Was he considered to be coming to stay until Christ returned, or just for a while then, one could ask ? First, Christ does not put other terminus on that evil one's endeavours, and adding to the word of God is prohibited (Proverbs 30:6). Secondly, the depiction in Matthew 24 is
i) unrelieved in its engrossment in evil (Matthew -26).
ii) commissioned without variation of kind of work to be done, until the evils arise and grow: not reduce and truncate, or wait until permitted to start. There is no such word whatever.
The start is NOW (Matthew 10, Luke 21), and there is no phase of redress or regress from this evil force ever envisaged until He returns, Himself to defeat it direly (Revelation 19), after which it can be set aside for the millenium.
Within this sort of view, there is perhaps a poignant element. While the Pentecostalists parade with professions and impressions, and multiplication of ceremonies unauthorised in scripture such as multiple tongues speaking simultaneously, not limit on the number, no interpreter in ALL cases, elevation instead of degradation of the tongues gift, in fact a specialty for occasion, and so forth (cf. A Question of Gifts), it is understandable how some, faced with this sort of clamour, whether ancient in kind in Montanism, or current, are revolted and over-react. THAT power and glory of the Lord in personal direct action was for FORMER TIMES, they would like to assert. Many do so.
Unfortunately, this is not only to LIMIT the word of God, but to contradict it (as in Ephesians 1:19ff. James 5). Both these steps are forbidden and to the point, erroneous. Glamorising and amending alike are forbidden. it is, to repeat. a simple matter of following what is given, not inventing, not discarding. God does what He pleases, in His own good pleasure; but when He speaks, it is HE, not we, our race or preference, our advisers or counsellors, who are to be consulted.
It may seem to help
pastorally, no doubt, not to have to work within the confines of the Bible when
power is required (note in II Timothy 3, a religion of FORM, without the POWER
of God is attacked as one of the end-time prodigies), and not carefully, to
find the mind of Christ. Doing just that in one such case, is
well exhibited in works like those of the mission in
· DO NOT add, limiting by human philosophy to mission field, the salient work of healing;
· DO NOT subtract, adding to all healing, as if it were a divine right to be better than Paul (II Corinthians 12:7-9), for whom a sickness was a limit to dangers of self-elevation, or than Job, for whom sickness was an acute challenge, permitted in order to display the integrity of his faith and love to God (see Job in index).
Truth, as so VERY often in Biblical matters, is in NEITHER EXTREME, though of course in some cases virtually every presentation is wrong, as in the days of Roman Inquisition, where the truth was not so readily available, because of the flames, though many were they who kept the faith flag flying, at enormous and prodigious cost. That cost is so deplorably undermined by such consensus arrangements as appear in the Billy Graham organisation's founder, and his words at his degree conferment from an RC organisation, a calamity to which reference was made earlier.
The end is as specified; the way is as specified; the promises are as specified; the need is as specified for discretion, moderation and accuracy with the word, keeping as in Moses, so now, to all of it, adding nothing to it, subtracting not a whit.
Fanatical is precisely what this is not. On the contrary, to do otherwise comes all too close to earning such an epithet. IF GOD speaks, then do not think of altering it, or amending. If you do not however BELIEVE this, then so be it. We are presently dealing with a wholly other question, INTERPRETATION of what is written. To reject authority or integrity, in the Bible or in a Shakespearean text, in this alike, is NOT to interpret, but to intrude.
b) Amillenialism –
and other railroading of the term '
This, as the name implies, wants also to be rid of a coming millenium. We need not concern ourselves further with this common feature.
However, it is often
associated with the concept that the word
As shown earlier in this volume, it is not possible to evacuate from every context, or from many contexts indeed, the unique specifications which apply, and can apply, to Israel the nation, descended from Abraham, accorded the land of Israel by unconditional promise, repetitively (see Ch. 4 above for the exact specifications, and SMR Appendix A for further on the point).
has other plans for
Alas, whatever happened to the 10 tribes, expatriated and expunged from the record AS an entity, and allowed merely to correlate and become one with Judah at the end (as explicitly in Ezekiel 37), it is of mere mundane interest and endless hypothesis.
Where someone can establish
a lineage to satisfy
Nothing avails but the word
prevails, repeatedly categorical in its multiple bases of definition for
Israel, it must be said for the amillenialist, however, his perhaps the best of the errors for THIS VERY REASON, CAN be a term in some contexts which is used to mean various connotations. Thus we can note two of these here.
A) The reference can be to
It is true, that here the phrasing is this:
"And they shall call you, The City of the LORD,
of the Holy One of Israel", Zion
intent is clear, though it is only equitable to note that this is the
formulation, not simply '
Nor is this all. We can specify another focus.
B) In Isaiah 65:13-15, it is manifest that the coming glory of the Lord in Israel, spiritually, is going to be ONLY in the New Covenant, so that when in Isaiah 66 we find that the glory of the Lord is NOT as that point seen by some, so that the Jews sent out as missionaries abort the Old Covenant procedure, in this, that some Gentiles are to be for 'priests': it is apparent that we are not dealing merely with Israel as a Christian additive, on the basis of the ONLY Gospel, but as a Christian component, working harmoniously with others not Jewish, in evangelisation, as now.
This must be NOW, for when the LORD DOES COME, then EVERY EYE WILL SEE HIM (Revelation 1:7), and tribes shall mourn. Hence it COULD not be that there was a procession of missionaries to deal with those AFTER the return of Christ, who had not seen His glory (as in Isaiah 66:19). Here, in Isaiah 66 at this point, are Jews (as has happened of course, most notably in Paul) with Gentiles doing the work jointly.
is not obliterated, but here it is not relevant, except in noting the advance
in concept. This brings the pulse of reality to the spiritual combination,
which is finally made massive, when Isaiah 66:15*3 happens. What however here is to be
consummated in power, has been initiated in grace
which we are then permitted to see, as in a narrative of
Here then is one of those penetrating cases where the principles required make proper an interpretation in terms of them, with this result.
On the depth and subtlety of Isaiah's multiple references and shades, see Chapter 4, above, at pp. 113, where a list is given showing in detail the diverse but complementary movement in Isaiah, and 120ff., where an excursion is made, especially into Isaiah 42 and 49, but with reference to 66.
that there is a complexity and profundity of reference, now this, now that, for
‘Israel’, with need as in any exact study, to analyse
the differences, the components, the facets, and to see the totality in its
exactitude, is not DUE to the amillenialist. It is
however helped in this, that such a fact helps some to avoid the
DISPENSATIONALIST escapades, and hence is a stablising
force to that extent, and a reminder of one of the aspects. It is perhaps
ironic that even though amillenialism can serve in
this way, it is at the cost of precision itself, ignoring the many contexts in
which the Lord makes further and various points, as we have seen in this
Chapter, indeed points of the utmost significance. Indeed, HE makes it clear
that HE WILL do these things concerning
It is better far, can one say it too often ? to keep to ALL that the LORD says in EVERY context, and to live by EVERY WORD WHICH PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD (as Christ showed, Matthew 4:4, when He Himself was tempted!).
This is in essence, simply a failure to see the integrity, as in Romans 4, of the whole gospel over all time, the everlasting gospel, from the first to the last, and a deplorable failure to note the various guide-lines which determine interpretation, such as the Gospel as ineradicable, immutable and irreversible.
See also Dispensationalism in the Index.
4 makes it deliciously clear that the faith of Abraham is still operative, is
now salvation- wise, vested in Christ as the basis, just as before it was in the
faithfulness of God who would provide; and that in each case it is always and
altogether a matter of divine grace and performance, not human attainment. The
law is not another way of salvation, nor does it contribute except in emphasis,
and most essentially, to show the exceeding sinfulness of sin (Romans 7:13),
and all that this reflects. FAITH was always operative (Romans 4:6, 20-21)
without exemption or exception from Abraham's day (cf. the penalties for its
omission in Deuteronomy 29:19), and grace was always the only way, as with
David, when it was a delight of his, that blessed was the man to whom the Lord
would not impute iniquity (Psalm 32).
GAINS - PAINS - and DUE CARE
As in all of these cases, some value may be gained however, even from contemplating the error, which divides and sunders and makes future what is present, in all sorts of contrivances, as if God were in some way divided, and did not indeed have an everlasting Gospel, present whether in Abraham or Paul, more fully revealed merely in the latter. Thus is the power and presence of God, the stability and strength of His way forgotten in various constructions without warrant, contrary to the word of God, stealing His words by putting them - into something else, somewhere, not for us! In terms of the word of Christ to Satan, it is stressed that when God says something, inapplicability is not an assumption, but requires demonstration! MAN SHALL LIVE BY EVERY WORD WHICH PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.
When God takes the trouble to come and tell us how to live, to waft His words away to someone else, some other time lacks one thing: a ground for the qualification that is provided, which makes futuristic what is WITHOUT QUALIFICATION declared to the people of the present. This is quite simply to add to the word of God, and hence, to subtract, since the addition is a negative sign!
What then is the value that may be found from dispensatinanlism. Alas it is very indirect!
in such a case as Zechariah 14. Here we see 14:16 apparently referring to the feast of tabernacles as to be done, long after the return of the Messiah in power. It is not by insight, but by omission that dispensationalism's trend can help some here. IF this were not interpreted by the overall KEY, that the former things do not come to mind (as in Jeremiah 3:16), not even the ark, in the New Covenant (cf. Jeremiah 31:31), and that of Isaiah 66:1-3 with 52-53, and with Isaiah 65:13-15, where the whole former covenant is replaced with the New: then ludicrous reversions contrary to Hebrews 8-10 and all else, might be seen. It is by alerting in its enormities, that dispensationalism could help some, to wake up, that God does not expect you to imagine that He cannot, if He will, use former things to express later things, when the key of interpretation is expressly provided, and prohibition on any other interpretation is superadded!
These things, then, are merely the MEANING of the feast of tabernacles, the spiritual import, which is being expressed by a means which the very book of Zechariah is most forward in presenting not only in 9:9, or in 12:10, but in 13:6 and 11:12, with the total review of the transition in 3:6-9 and 6:12-13. We ourselves can do the same; it is a literary licence. If we wish to refer to the torture chambers of the Inquisition, in meaning the attitude these evoke, that is a mere matter of usage and custom, literary allusion and the like. For a good writer, however, it should be made clear that one is so acting, and in the Bible, it is made superabundantly clear. The Old Covenant, says Hebrews 8, is now obsolescent, fading away. That does not imply that it is to have recrudescence, but as Jeremiah puts it, that it is not even to come to mind.
We have then looked at some of the supermarket shelves, not for interest, but to apply perspective and to see how sure is the word of God, and how wonderful is its fulfilment when we look, not at the soundings of philosophy, the blemishes of human surmises or the insertions of thought, but at what it actually says, its own definitions, its own liberties, neither compressed by our homogenising, nor expanded by our insertions from our own minds.
The FACTS, then, relative to what the word of God says in this area, are none of the above. Nevertheless there can be some advantage in seeing what has been done.
Amillenialism usefully draws attention to one fact, while discounting others. Postmillenialism usefully focusses the wonder of the impact of Christ at the first, but appallingly tends to discount both the power of the present by contrast, and the stringent actualities of divine insistence on vindication of the Messiah on earth (as in Psalm 2, 72), and the transcendent power needed so to act, in this world with its ways, alienation and prince. British Israelitism shows us the danger of allowing cultural present, to determine Biblical meaning. Now it is too ludicrous; but in the height of Britain's power, careless disregard of the contexts in the Bible, and dangerous insertions, alike, could give some plausibility to those in love with their own land. We are not however dealing with a love affair of man, but with the love of God, His faithfulness and insistences, which He executes as surely as Texas has executed criminals for so long. With God, however, the execution is a delight, and the performance a pass-word as He continually insists (as in Ezekiel 36-37 and Micah 7). He does what He says to what He defines. It is HIS word.
The term 'premillenial' is not often used here, because as with so many tags, it is often associated in a reader's mind, with some slant, perspective, even with dispensationalism for some, so that it becomes like a political party, meaning this and that to some, according to their experience or something they may have read. It is as has been shown often enough, and in particular in SMR Ch. 7 (pp. 502ff.), the case that a millenium is to come, as observed above also; and in that sense, thi is a pre-millenial time. However so many 'positions' are adopted, that one is not keen to use this term. ONE IS KEEN however to make it clear that a millenium will certainly come, of a length impossible to determine, since the 'thousand years' in Revelation 20 is used in a book so filled with (interpretable Old Testament) symbolism, and in particular with the 1260, 42 months, word from Daniel, which needs interpretation (for which see SMR pp. 959-964) according to context as does all in its place, that the chronological import is, like the precise time of Christ's return, merely a indication of style. It will occur, will be long enough for all the features noted in the Bible to occur, and time will be no object. It will not be mean.
It is also useful to reflect, that the incentive to approaches such as these, which ignore so many deterrents in the word of God, to make the worse, mean better, the impossible for flesh to endure, mean, marvellous and ready for the return of Christ to His now so manifest kingdom, or anything remotely like this, could at least be comprehended, not in Biblical exegesis, but in cultural stimulus, in an earlier period.
there was a feeling which could mean: THIS IS MOVING to the wonderful end. We do not NEED (who would! they might muse) the scripturally sure points concerning the worsening to confusion and ruin, before Christ returns in direct impact and destructive power on the assembled peoples who contrive to challenge His kingdom, as in Revelation 19 and I Thessalonians 1. We will have it WITHOUT all that. We will make it and He can take it!
This is not to suggest that all such errors by any means lay in such attitudes, or that error is in every case the result of cultural inroads adding themselves to the word of God, openly. It can be quite surreptitious, people can be deceived. It is rather that some of these considerations show something of the appeal, and intrusion, the assertive, insertive propensity of man, when culture beckons, so that the spirit of the Age seems to call, like a siren, and some seem to listen, albeit without knowing or realising whence the call comes.
IN all this, one thing remains: keep to what it says, not adding, not subtracting, never reducing one context for another, but interpreting, at most, one example as in Zechariah 14, by means of an overall criterion, elsewhere supplied to cover ALL cases.
It is a little unfortunate that so much is made of the millenium, in terminology, as in premillenial, amillenial, postmillenial, when though the millenium will be, has great significance, and is to be discovered from all the contexts in the Bible, other matters loom in immense intensity NOW. The millenium will come, not by philosophy of the foolish thoughts of alienated man: yet, if you want to know the word of God, the present point concerning Israel, is far more important in Christian apologetics, namely that ISRAEL IS, and WAS to come back, is coming back and is doing all that God said, and that this is a PROFOUNDLY IMPORTANT and scripturally explicit case of showing the divine faithfulness to His word. It is vital, since He will IN NOTHING, allow His word to be abolished, but only fulfilled, as Christ declared (Matthew -20 cf. SMR Appendix D).
It is part of the pleasantness of the very worship of God, that what He says, He means, does and is faithful to do, even in the most prodigious exploits, as predicted in Micah 7:17 and seen in the Exodus, even as seen on the Cross, in the resurrection, and will be seen in His return. HOW OFTEN the Lord regales Israel in the Psalms with the actual, factual record, and deplores the lack of faith to act on it, in view of these things, or exhorts to do so (as in 78, 105, 106). It is not interpreted by philosophy, by fantasy, by incursion of one's own imagination or excision of the same from the mind of the Lord, not by desire, but BY ITSELF, as HIS speech.
He is the God who acts for
the one who waits for Him (Isaiah 64:6), and to the jot and tittle,
is committed to performing by His power what He has declared. He does not
despise what He has written. He does not rescind His word. This, it is the word
of Christ which Matthew transcribes (5:17-20), and history declares to be true
from beginning to end.
There are cases where humour can enter in, even in the sober dimensions of judgment.
It is not at all that the judgment possesses humour, for like the end of cancer, it lacks mirth in entirety. However the misuse of a text of international judgment in some light or obviously improper personal way, to seem to sanction things never authorised by God, has perhaps the same sort of humour that Christ used when He told His adversaries that they were like children who were piped to, and would not dance, for whom wails were made, in play, and they would not moan. In that case, it was that John the Baptist called for mourning, and many were averse; Christ called for rejoicing, in terms of His advent and the grace to be shown, but they would not be glad (Matthew 11:17). Nothing pleased them; they were simply averse!
This evokes the concept of perversity through humour, though the mirth adorned with gravity. It has therefore a most serious message to them.
There is another such instance of a contemporary character, where a grim humour relates to what in these terms, could only be an outlandish approach.
Here we find the course adopted by many Pentecostalists, of being "slain by the Spirit" or some such terminology. There is simply nothing in the Bible to sanction such a practice, as a performance, a routine, a procession in which a person comes, is taken in arms or hand, and then 'slain'. It appears to mean that something like repentance, or like whole hearted reception of the Lord, or renewal, or some combination, surrender, submission, to the power of the Lord, is thought to occur. But where is the authority for this as a practice ? It is not a question of what the LORD may see fit to do to someone at some time; it is rather this: Is the Bible authorising a practice in which people queue for 'treatment' in this manner, at the hands of man ? It is not what the Lord may see fit to do; it is what man may see fit to do in His name, and on what authority they act.
One text which might be suggested lies here, in Isaiah 66:16, which ends: "and the slain of the Lord shall be many." However this verse commences far otherwise than any such practice could handle: "For by fire will the Lord plead, and by His sword, with all flesh." Now someone might dare to suggest that the fire represents something spiritual, and the sword the word of God. It is of course true that symbolism can be used, in the Bible or out of it; but it is also true that in any good writing, the portent of the symbolism is clear. It can vary according to the case, and at times, of course, and the bulk of times, the words are not being symbolic. That is a figure of speech, and even in the most ornate writing, the direct is the norm, the figure the less usual.
However, the point at hand is simple. What is the context here in Isaiah 66 ?
We learn the following in sequence:
· 1. That God wants humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at His word (66:2).
· 2. that animal sacrifice is going to be superseded (66:3, as in 52-53).
that the leaders of
that many who were oppressed and even cast out by their brethren, among the
Jewish people, will be vindicated (precisely, once more, as happened to Peter
and John, as treated vilely and violently by the priestly party, and yet most
blessed as leaders of the people of the Lord, as in Acts 3-5). On the thrones
· 5. that there is to be recompence, pay-back, judgment on such miscreancy, intolerable twisting of truth and rebellion by the people (66:6).
· 6. that there is in fact to be a recovery of Israel and of Jerusalem in particular, a restoration (66:6-9), associated with a brevity, an all but instantaneous advent, re-invention of the desolated nation (and all this is in the time frame indexed by Isaiah 52-55 and so on, post-Messianic, so that the reference to perversity and animal sacrifice has its fitting place). It is to be one of a very different character to that of the past, in its program, for there will be a consummation!
that this is to be occasion for great rejoicing
(66:10), and incredible aid will be received by
· 8. that there is to be a time of comfort (it has come in help and military victories as predicted in Zechariah 12, to precede the spiritual conversion of so many of those of the new State of Israel, as denoted in Zech. 12:10 and Ezekiel 36-37), eventually to be of great depth (66:11ff.).
that "the hand of the LORD shall be known by His servants
and His indignation against His enemies" (66:14), so that anger and judgment ensue,
· 10. that in exhibiting this indignation and anger, the Lord will emply fire, chariots like a whirlwind, designations, if you want symbols, of military power, slaughter and fighting.
· 11. that this will render "HIS REBUKE" and the reason ('for') why this may be seen as rebuke (66:16) is that He will use fire and the sword to institute that rebuke.
· 12. that many people will be slain by these means, so attesting the indignation and rebuke, and the power and judgment of the Lord.
· 13. that this is in keeping with the foul sins of idolatry and abominable religious practices with which the people had provoked the Lord (66:17).
· 14. that the Lord is all too aware of their violations and vileness of heart, contrary to truth and to the divine covenant (66:18).
· 15. that it is in view of all this that He will send forth missionaries to those who have not seen His glory, and these will involve Gentiles in a New Covenant so that even they, not even part of Israel at all, can serve as ministers of righteousness, replacing the former priestly mode (66:18-21).
that this is one way in which the Lord will preserve the newly instituted and
anciently assured and apportioned nation of Israel, and it will lead on to hell
itself as a testimony (66:24), while the new heavens and the new earth are
likewise assured (rest of chapter).
Ø While then any endeavour to use this military, retributive, judgmental
Ø deliverance of the
as a base or basis for
some sort of spiritual ceremony in a church is ludicrous,
such an error makes it proper to examine the sequence in this chapter, which is a thing useful and edifying.
Particularly of interest is the reversion in 66:17, in a brief reminder of the sins of ISRAEL itself, before the reference to the missionary activity, which has in fact gone on for so long, millenia already, begun by such as Peter and Paul, of Israel indeed, and jointly continued by many both Jew and Gentile. It evokes the sense that the faithfulness of the Lord to His promises to Abraham (as in Micah 7:20) is by no means in obliteration or even mitigation of their sins, but exactly as in Ezekiel 36:22, despite them!
The change to occur in the heart of many of Israel as in Ezekiel 37, Zech. 12:10, in due course, and in the very midst of these armed contests and wars, is one of the necessities therefore of the case. It is interwoven, as Zechariah shows, with the very thunder of war, the implacable hatred of Israel's enemies, and as Deuteronomy 32 put it from the beginning, the action of the Lord comes when He sees "that their strength is gone".
In one sense the saga of Israel is not diverse in spirit from that of many others: it comes from misuse of gifts, pride, pomp, folly, deepening sins, false spiritual actions and gods, hypocrisy, hollowness of heart, adverse events, prodigious afflictions, realisation of emptiness and need, impotence in spiritual things entirely, exhibition by the Lord to the soul of its iniquity, as only He knows how, with depth, precision and penetration, conviction of sin, righteousness and judgment as in John 16, and then deliverance in repentance precisely as in Zech. 12:10, in essence. Such things the scriptures repeatedly relate.
In another sense, it is both more national, more military, more land oriented, more involved with cited and unique preliminaries, as in the promise and indeed oath to Abraham, cited by Micah and considered in detail from the text of the Bible, in Ch. 4 above. It is simply a particular case, and in one sense, EACH case is particular, for each individual; but in this instance, it is a trumpet blast to the world, a testimony to the nations, an insertion into the world history program, an elevation of style so that what God started as a people to show forth His praise (Isaiah 43:21), is used to the end, not as some frustrated mistake, but as a glorious counsel and fulfilment of wisdom (which IS justified by her children, as Christ declared), so that the weakness becomes strength, the evil is turned to good, and the follies are redeemed, becoming instruments, in their overthrow, of righteous instruction (as expressly declared in Ezekiel 36:18-23 in great detail, and 37:8,28).
In those places in Ezekiel, it is most manifest that it matters to the divine counsel enormously, that there should be no confusion in the nations, occasioned by the discipline of Israel. It is emphatically NOT because God is weak, or unreliable, or fitful, like idols or human thoughts that rest on themselves in arbitrary pomp and puny invalidity (cf. That Magnificent Rock Ch. 5, and Barbs, Arrows and Balms 6 - 7) . Not at all: the discipline was forecast, the result was detailed before it became history, the restoration was predicted, the vindication is specialised with the Gospel as the necessary advent for their souls, while the restoration of the nation is contrary to demerit, and provided with a power comparable to that used in the Exodus, and detailed in its dimensions in Zechariah 12, and in its happenings, as in the division of Jerusalem into two (fulfilled 1948) in Zech. 14.
Just as in Isaiah 66:14ff., you see express attestation of the FURY of the Lord, in which He comes, not to bless but to demolish, not for benediction in salvation but for retribution with zeal for His people, in judging all flesh, not in remitting the sins of some (66:16), so you see the same terminal-type episodes in Isaiah 30, where in the day that the Lord binds up the wound of His people (30:26), when “the light of the sun will be sevenfold”, and it is then that there will be a “bridle in the jaws of the people causing them to err”, scarcely a work of redemption in the Spirit (30:28). Indeed, this is the Chapter in Isaiah where it is written “for a time to come, for ever and ever”, that this is “a rebellious people”, one who say “to the seers, Do not see”, so that their judgments to come are in view and in mind. It is thus that the Messiah in Isaiah 32 is seen in His reign, as in Isaiah 9:7ff., and Isaiah 11.
ALWAYS in these multiplied contexts, it is the fury is to the enemies of the Lord who have afflicted His people, and the healing is to a people who first were His, then erred, then received discipline, and now are to be healed from their wounds differentially, while their still agile oppressors receive their judgment for all that they have done, are doing and plan to do.
That is to be a “day of the great
(30:25), and of what kind ? It is the kind associated with “the name of the
Lord” coming “from afar”, and “His lip are full of indignation,
and His tongue with devouring fire”, for it comes “burning with anger”. Endeavours
to turn these many parallel passages in Isaiah and Micah and Joel, where
retributive deliverance of a sinning
Rather do they represent a categorical distortion which is to turn curse, to blessing; for if the FURY and the SLAYING is retributive on those who have acted against His people, how is it for the benefit of these who are not here exhibited as those to become His people, but His butt ? And if the nations receive this impact of fury, how is it not the nations, but the individual lives of those being blessed which are ravaged through divine vengeance ? To take a diverse subject in an opposite manner is the very nadir of exegesis, and with whatever intention, the glamour of brigandage against the word of the Lord. It is to be taken AS IT COMES, and not as it goes in some philosophy.
If His people have greatly erred, and so been disciplined, while those who have carried on the judgments to oppress them are the butt of the divine fury, how does this mean that those who turn in repentance to the Lord are the recipients of His salvation, or that the slaying is on the one hand the retributive curse and on the other the individualised blessing!
Divine action with
scattering hailstones on
It is that of the oppressed
called nation, which strayed from the Lord whom it had known, now
brought home to the Lord after a huge period of oppression from the
opportunistic enemies who have stricken it: so that on the one hand there is
the group inheriting slaying and fury, and on the other, a quite different
group inheriting restoration and forgiveness. To confuse this is to make
The use, however, of divine
implements of rebuke to the nations in the fulfilment
of a grand plan of enormous depth of counsel (as in Romans ), is not a ground for the use of a
ceremony in a Pentecostal or other religious body, for blessed dealings without
such military means, without such a purpose, without such a result. If
perversity needed a very symbol, this would serve admirably.
You may now care
to look at
LITTLE THINGS giving attention to the delicate nuance, fragrance of the prophetic word, in things for some, seemingly inconsequential, but in fact of vital significance.